The spotlight may be gone, but our beloved Detroit is still here. And after spending several years building and cleaning up for the Super Bowl, it seems Detroit city officials remain committed to continue working toward the city’s resurgence, even after the nation has turned its eye elsewhere. But while they should be commended for instituting policies to maintain the city, unfortunately, their focus is not where it should be.

Sarah Royce

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick recently announced a plan to put Roger Penske – the man largely responsible for Detroit’s strong showing as host of Super Bowl XL – in charge of continuing the clean-up process for the downtown area. But by choosing to continue focusing only on downtown, city officials are making a mistake common to urban renewal efforts – they are focusing on the wants of potential outside visitors to the city rather than on the needs of the residents that are its true life and blood.

Make no mistake about it, a clean, vibrant downtown is a vital component of Detroit’s climb into respectability, but no less important is improving residential areas. While cultural attractions like sports stadiums, casinos and restaurants may attract suburbanites to the city for a few hours, clean, safe neighborhoods will attract permanent residents, who provide much more in the way of creating a livable city.

In repaving downtown avenues, opening up new businesses and attractions and further scrubbing the comparably pristine central areas, the mayor and city council have allowed the rest of the city to continue its decline. Street corners, even in otherwise respectable neighborhoods, are piled tall with litter, playgrounds are crumbling, street lights are often broken and abandoned buildings are still all-too-easily spotted. Is it any wonder then that the city continues losing residents every month?

Not all the problems in neighborhoods can be blamed on the city, but what is troubling is the lack of focus on improving life for the city’s residents. While building up the Ford Field area for the Super Bowl, the city curbed bulk-trash pickup services in neighborhoods – likely one of the reasons so many old tires and appliances lie heaped on street corners. And now, instead of moving into areas it has thus far ignored, the city has decided to continue polishing precious blocks of the downtown area.

It is impossible to build a city worth living in while continuing to ignore its residential areas. Events like the Super Bowl have made outsiders curious about the city, but they will only turn away with renewed negativity if city officials allow neighborhoods to remain derelict and unkempt. In all fairness, the mayor did say that there will be another initiative later on to clean up neighborhoods. The question is why is that not a priority now?

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